Over the years, the New York Billionaire property developer and TV personality famous for The Apprentice, Donald Trump, has made a number of remarks about running for US President.
Until 2015, many close to Trump have interpreted these remarks as being in jest, with little seriousness. When trump flirted with running for President in 2012, CNN reported that he donated $541,650 to the Federal Democratic Campaign.
However within a period of just over a year, Trump relatively new to the Republican Party, with no previous political experience, and holding views outside the mainstream Republican movement, has demolished the other Republican candidates for the republican Presidential nomination. Trump now stands on the verge of gaining Republican nomination in what is shaping up to be one of the most unusual and potentially bitterly fought presidential election campaigns in recent history.
What makes this current situation even more strange and ludicrous is the close relationship that the Clintons have enjoyed with Trump, and the number of mutual acquaintances who are also involved in this coming Presidential campaign that have worked for both political sides.
The events of the last twelve months point circumstantially to the possibility that Trump originally intended to be a spoiler within the GOP. The BBC went further and called Trump a Democratic secret agent. The Nation Review called Trump a ‘bogeyman’ , stating that ‘he couldn’t help the Democrats more if he were trying”.
According to The Washington Post, former President Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation early 2015 with Donald Trump about a run for the Republican candidacy for the US Presidency. Insiders said that Clinton strongly encouraged Trump to run for Republican nomination. Although Clinton’s personal office confirmed the discussion took place, the Clinton spokesperson was silent on what was discussed other than generalities of the current political landscape.
The Washington Post stated that according to four Trump allies, the call was about Trump’s final decision to make a run for the Republican Presidential nomination. The Trump allies according to The Washington Post mentioned Clinton’s desire to rouse the GOP base. One person who had knowledge about the Clinton side of the call said that Clinton was “upbeat and encouraging during the conversation”.
This was one of many calls and meetings over the years between Clinton and Trump, who have a close working relationship. Clinton and Trump have played golf together, Trump had donated to the Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons had attended Trump’s 3rd wedding in the front row to Melania Knauss way back in 2005.
Hillary Clinton’s own announcement that she would seek the democratic nomination for the US Presidential race on June 16th leads to many questions about Bill Clinton’s discussions with Donald Trump. These questions have never really been asked by the media, so remain unanswered.
Donald Trump is by no means a traditional Republican, and only joined the party in 2009 after being registered as a democrat back in 2001. He may best be described as a ‘New York liberal’ with a smattering of extremist views. Many Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan as a consequence have actually held back their support for Donald Trump, only giving a lukewarm promise to support him if he wins the nomination. Republican Party elders George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Bob Dole, have not given any support to Donald trump.
Nevertheless, Trump has had a rapid and almost comical rise among the ranks of the Republican Party in what some pundits describe as a ‘hostile takeover.’
His harsh views on immigration are likely to cost votes within the Mexican community. He has changed his views regularly on issues like abortion. Trump is also advocating increasing social security with cuts from military spending. Trump is staunchly against trade agreements like Nafta, and may put to bed forever the fairy-tale of the TPP, if elected.
However his views on immigration aren’t too far away from Ted Cruz who favours the strengthening of the border and upholding of the law on immigrants. Like Trump, Cruz in his official webpage also talks about illegal immigrants being drug smugglers, child abusers, murderers, and other dangerous criminals entering the United States. Opinion within the Republican movement itself is changing towards allowing legal abortion. Trump shows out his pragmatism in social security, where cuts are deeply unpopular with voters. In trade, Trump is actually going back to old traditional republican values of tariffs to balance trade and isolationism in foreign affairs that were prevailing within the Republican Party pre-WWII.
So how is Trump helping the Hillary campaign?
Trump’s Primary campaign was so successful that he took away all the oxygen from the other candidates in the debate. His outrageous statements sucked up all the media time, letting the other candidates suffocate.
Trump was figured as a Republican candidate that the Clintons could easily defeat. That was in the early reckoning. However the Trump bandwagon has become the biggest media asset in the campaign so far.
Trump’s outlandish statements often came at times when the Hillary campaign was floundering. His media focus saved the democrats when they were in trouble a number of times. According to Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine Trump’s outlandish comments always came when the democrats landed in controversy.
This was figured that Trump’s behaviour would help Hillary escape close scrutiny over the email and Benghazi issues, as well as flaws in some of her decisions and outright allegations of corruption dating back to the Little Rock days when her husband Bill Clinton was Governor. Trumps personality flaws would cover the character issues that Hillary must hide if she is to win the 2016 US Presidential election.
However, the biggest assistance Trump has been providing Hillary is ‘putting her in the victim’s position. As Jeb Bush claimed “she is good at playing the victim”. Trump’s attacks on Hillary would seem to give her a political advantage. This could help rallying women to the Hillary side according to Democratic Strategist Steve McMahon. Hillary can use these attacks to seek empathy from professional women, something she did very successfully back in 2000 and 2008.
Then there are the campaign personnel connections. The George Soros connection is interesting as he is both close to Trump and the Clintons. Trump’s new finance chairman Steve Mnuchen supported Hillary Clinton against Obama and is very close to George Soros.
Justin Raimondo in his blog Antiwar.com was the first to raise the hypothesis that Trump was running as a ‘spoiler’ candidate to run havoc within the GOP ranks during the primaries. Debra J. Saunders claimed that Trump’s role in the GOP was to disrupt party harmony in the lead up to the democratic Presidential Nomination Convention due to be held in July 2016. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida called Trump a “phantom candidate ….to create a political circus.”
Trump’s original motivation could have been ego and the chance to play a national role through the media. Trump loves to play presidential. At first this could have been seen as the ultimate TV role, which he enjoys. The primaries and attention have been a ‘buzz’ for Trump, who as enjoyed being the non-politician politician. His personal imperfections have made human acceptably human and the messages he has been sending out are hitting raw nerves within the electorate.
Although Trump’s actions were meant to benefit his good friend Hillary Clinton, Trumps sudden electoral popularity in his own right has complicated things. Trump’s persona has been enlarged through the primaries into a force that cannot easily be contended with. Trump originally wanted to help Hillary, but know realizes he can carry away this election in his own right, and thus go against the informal understanding with the Clintons.
The Clintons are now facing-off with a monster persona they helped deliver to the US electorate.
Over the first few months of the primary season, Trump’s electoral popularity was low compared to Clinton. In July 2015 Trump polled 34% to Clinton’s 53%. However in September and December last year Trump came within 2 percentage points of Clinton in national polling.
Ronald Reagan was seen as a joke when he first made his run for the presidency. And as in the Reagan experience, Trump is shoring up in the opinion polls to where on 13th may he was just 2 percentage points nationally behind Hillary Clinton. The One America and Gravis Marketing poll shows the democratic presidential front-runner with 48% support while the GOP nominee at 46% in a head to head general election fight. Some polls actually put Trump in front. This is a position from where Trump can win.
With Trump showing overall strength in the California primary and Clinton struggling to gain a strong lead over Sanders, the momentum for Trump is rapidly growing. Trump is also winning over the conservative professional women vote, winning 57% of the women’s vote in the recent New York primary.
Hillary so far has campaigned on traditional Democratic issues such as Obamacare, guns, free speech, progressive policies, the economy and climate change. These issues aren’t working this time round as the Obama era was a great disappointment for many voters. Hillary is just not connecting to the electorate this time round. There is an air of change away from the failure of the Obama era towards something new, which Hillary has failed to grapple with.
In addition the Clinton-Sanders primary fight has divided the Democratic Party, where Sander’s supporters may not fall behind Clinton if she clinches the Democratic Nomination outright with a majority of delegates. Exit polls suggest that almost half of Sanders supporters will defect to Trump in a general election.
Trump has been abrasive during the primary season, which worked well for him. Trump is attacking the corrupt Hillary. However Trump also knows that too much negativity towards Clinton will benefit her. Trump is comical in his attacks, but he is also well disciplined.
Hillary is also in a quandary. She is living in a ‘glass house’ where attacks on Trump could backfire, even though Trump has provided her with so much material to potentially attack with, i.e., immigration. Consequently, she cannot attack Trump on women, policy, or integrity without expecting very damaging retaliation from the Trump camp.
Clinton’s attacks on Trump have been weak and haven’t had much effect to date. In addition Clinton personally doesn’t look comfortable attacking Trump on the hustings.
Trump has control over the campaign and has led it towards personalities, rather than policy. This is where Hillary is at her weakest, with many personal character negatives with a massive integrity gap to overcome. Trump is well armed with information from Edward Klein who wrote a number of unflattering books about the Clintons.
Trump has only personality negatives to overcome. The leaked recording of Trump advisor Paul Manafort’s presentation to Republican Party insiders revealed that the Trump campaign is undergoing a major strategy change that will not insult or polarize.
Trump worked successfully on the fears of working class voters. These people have great anxieties about change and Trump’s comments about Mexicans sending rapists and criminals over the border and banning all Muslims has tugged at the emotions of this segment of the electorate.
To the electorate, Trump doesn’t sound like a politician. The fact that many of the GOP leaders don’t support Trump can actually be seen as a positive for him out on the hustings. He is not establishment and doesn’t talk like a politician.
Trump’s biggest asset is waiting for the presidential debates which will be head to head with Hillary. Trump’s business rather than diplomatic language will be refreshing to the electorate this time round. Trump has a lot of ideas that can be considered new in defence, foreign policy, and in social-economics. Trump will appear the liberal and Hillary the conservative if she pushes the same directions as Obamaism.
Trump has some new directions in policy which should appeal to the electorate. His views on foreign policy are visionary and modern in contrast to the establishment views. If he wins this could set a new long term direction in US foreign policy. The branding of ‘America first’ is powerful and overturns old directions recognizing that the US doesn’t have the resources to be the world policeman and other countries should also do their fair-share of work in keeping world order. This is a major paradigm shift and will affect how the US conducts its international relationships with countries like China and Russia for many years in the future.
If Trump is successful in November, he may bring in a neo-Republican philosophy that actually encapsulates and modernizes Republican thinking in the 21st century. Let’s see if Trump the visionary comes out during the presidential debates. If he does, then the Clinton campaign could be shattered.
One will expect the members of the Republican Party quickly falling behind Trump at and after the republican Convention. Former Californian Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to lend his support at the convention. He is a winning brand who can give the Republicans another four years in the Whitehouse.
The Clintons have to think very hard about their future strategy. Her battle for the Democratic nomination is not over yet and she must be sure that this does not damage her. When she faces off with Donald Trump, it’s going to be close up and personal. Trump has outsmarted the Clintons from the very beginning. He has become their worst nightmare, where Trump has transformed from being the most unlikely to being the favorite to win the presidency.
This is going to be a very interesting presidential campaign.